business news in context, analysis with attitude

CNBC writes that "quiet hiring" is a workplace phenomenon likely to occur this year, defined as "when an organization acquires new skills without actually hiring new full-time employees … Sometimes, it means hiring short-term contractors. Other times, it means encouraging current employees to temporarily move into new roles within the organization."

Emily Rose McRae, who leads Gartner’s future of work research team, tells CNBC, "The reality for the next year is — whether or not we go into a recession — everyone’s a little nervous.  In a lot of cases, organizations are not necessarily doing a hiring freeze, or layoffs, but maybe slowing down a little bit on their hiring … The talent shortage that we talked about throughout 2022 hasn’t gone away.  So, you’re in a situation where it’s harder to get head count, and you have a desperate need for talent.”

CNBC goes on:

"Hiring usually falls into one of three categories: backfilling old roles, creating new ones to help the company grow or addressing an acute, immediate need.

"Quiet hiring is all about that third category, even if it doesn’t technically involve any new hiring at all. The idea is to prioritize the most crucial business functions at a given time, which could mean temporarily mixing up the roles of current employees."

There is, the story suggests, "some inherent tension here: If you’re temporarily reassigned to a different part of your company, you might interpret that as being told that your regular job isn’t particularly important. After all, nobody’s getting hired to backfill your old responsibilities.

"Bosses can help address that by clearly articulating why the specific project or business division is so crucial to the company’s success. It’ll help the employee feel valued, and less likely to see the move as a sign that they need to start looking for jobs elsewhere."

KC's View:

Seems to me that one of the ways to address the "inherent tension" is to give people a greater sense of the whole, to give them a sense of being invested - both tangibly and intangibly - in the success of the entire enterprise.  It means discouraging siloed thinking, with folks just focusing on their own functions and own departments.

One of the examples cited in the CNBC story is "Australian airline Qantas, which asked executives to address a labor shortage last year, in part, by rotating in as baggage handlers."   This reminded me of the conversations we were having here last week about Southwest Airlines, and how the company's founding CEO, Herb Kelleher, exemplified this sort of attitude before it was a management buzzword.  There are few messages more clarifying than when a senior executive grabs a mop or takes over a checkout lane or carries bags out to a car.  And when this kind of attitude is institutionalized - part of the executive's regular responsibilities, it becomes a cultural norm, not an anomaly.

I also think that one of the things this suggests to me is the importance of investing in continuing education.  When new skills are needed, one of the ways to address the challenge is to make sure that existing employees, at a variety of levels, have the opportunity to grow … it helps them feel more invested in the company, because they feel like their company is more invested in them.

Note:  MNB tomorrow will feature a conversation with Greg McNiff, COO of Stater Bros., who will discuss this issue, especially in the context of how members of the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) works with the University of Southern California (USC).